Founded in 1863, the New York Skating Club was the second skating club to be formed in the United States. For the first decade of its existence, members of the Club skated on pond ice, first at the Conservatory Pond in Central Park and then moved every few years to other private ponds on Fifth Avenue. At each site, the Club built a clubhouse for the exclusive use of its members. During these years, the Club had an official meteorologist, Mr. E.B. Cooke, to report on the weather and skating conditions, which were often less than ideal. With the invention of refrigerated ice surfaces in the 1880s and the development of the previous outdoor pond sites into office and hotel space, skating began moving indoors.
Just after the turn of the 20th Century, informal clubs, such as the Bankers and Brokers Club and the Artists and Architects Skating Club, were formed. Many of their members eventually merged into the New York Skating Club, which was revived in 1917. At this time, Club members skated at the two rinks named Iceland, the first on Broadway and 53rd Street and the second at 239 West 52nd Street. In early 1927, the New York Club technically ceased to exist and its members moved en masse to the new Skating Club of New York.
Through the savvy negotiation of SCNY board members, and especially the efforts of Mr. David Layman, in 1927 a new ice rink was built on West 50th Street, adjacent to Madison Square Garden. Originally called The Ice Club, this rink, later renamed Iceland, was SCNY’s home and became the foundation for the Club’s rich legacy. Gathering a group of elite skaters from the US and premier coaches from Europe, The Skating Club of New York began to carve out a path for competitive figure skating within the United States. In addition, throughout the 1930’s the Club produced some of the most famous and lavish carnivals in the world at Madison Square Garden. Occasionally headlined by three-time Olympic Champion Sonja Henie, these carnivals were the forerunners of the ice show as we know it today.
1930 Skating Show Footage
British film company Pathe recently released silent newsreel footage from its archives of SCNY's 1930 Winter Carnival at Madison Square Garden. Dated January 24, 1930, the newsreel was shown between features in movie theaters around the globe. Making her debut as star of the winter skating carnival was reigning world champion and actress, Sonja Henie.
Click here: Skating The Race Aka Society Skaters Open… 1930
How Ice Skating Made Fifth Avenue a Fashionable Destination
When Central Park opened, upper Fifth Avenue was rural and remote. Ponds and streams dotted the area around 59th Street. Unpaved roads were lined with cattle yards and stables. Saks was far in the future. Yet fashionable New Yorkers still trekked north from Washington Square—to go ice skating.
In the 1860s, when the neighborhood tipped from sylvan to stylish, private skating ponds led the charge. They lured the elite with costume balls, fireworks, music, spacious restaurants, and selective membership...
Source: Rebecca Dalzell, "How Ice Skating Made Fifth Avenue a Fashionable Destination," ny.curbed.com, January 13, 2015
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The Skating Club of New York, the Skating Club of Boston, and the Philadelphia Skating Club and Humane Society became founding members of the United States Figure Skating Association (USFSA). Many of the Association’s original officers were from New York and the meetings were typically held in the homes of Skating Club of New York members.
150th Anniversary Journal
The USFSA quickly established a National Championship based on SCNY’s Middle Atlantic Figure Skating Championships. For the next 30 years, SCNY would share in hundreds of National Championship titles and medals. Many of the Club’s champions would go on to World and Olympic titles. The Skating Club of New York was an undeniable force.
Progress continued after World War II as skating clubs popped up all across the nation. Competitive figure skating as we know it today became well-established and a defining part of each Winter Olympic Games. Through the years, SCNY continued to be a strong presence within the USFSA and at National and International competition. The Skating Club of New York is the only American skating club with three Olympic Ladies Gold Medalists, Carol Heiss (1960), Dorothy Hamill (1976) and Sarah Hughes (2002)!
In recent years, synchronized skating has become an integral part of SCNY’s legacy with twelve lines now actively competing under four teams – the Skyliners, Gotham City Synchro, Central Park Ice and Figure Skating in Harlem. SCNY had Men N Sync, the country’s first and only all-men’s synchro team. Synchro is an exciting and developing discipline for the club and for the sport.